Mountain High, River Deep

We have now been a month in the new house and, at long last, managed to acquire a car. Finally, Tantalus can rest. Having a car gives me freedom to get out and about – at least during hours of daylight as driving in the dark will remain off-limits for safety reasons. The Handsome Dutchman has a driver who we can also use after dark or for less safe journeys. Other than short trips to the supermarket, my first real outing in the car was to open a bank account. We have been trying to gather the paperwork from a combination of British and Dutch sometimes-slightly-unhelpful or sometimes-unbelievably-frustratingly-unhelpful banks to do this for over four months but at last the final piece arrived in the rather slow mail from Europe. The bank where we were to open the account was in another part of the town and I first had to collect the Handsome Dutchman from his office. Although I would have preferred fewer interjections from a passenger who seems to consistently know better than the GPS which route to take, the journey to the bank was straightforward enough.

When we arrived at the bank, we were appalled by then enormously long queues and were very glad that we had a special appointment as, given our accumulated ire at the British and Dutch banks, we would likely have exploded long before getting to the front of the queue! We later learned that very few people use online banking and that, in Trinidad, many transactions (including paying any number of household bills) are still made at the bank in person. Our appointment was unremarkable except that we did not leave with the bank account actually open. We were successful in applying for an account but the process to open an account takes time. After some undetermined length of time, we will have to return to the bank to complete the process.

It happened to be the Handsome Dutchman’s birthday so we took the opportunity to have lunch together in a café before he returned to the office. Again, not too eventful, but when we left the café, it was raining. It is rainy season right now and this means it rains. It rains a lot. It rains a lot every day, in fact. It is not like the rain that you might get in the Asian tropics where once a day at around four o’clock in the afternoon there is a downpour which is rather quickly over. This is much more like the rain in Northern Europe which is both frequent and unpredictable. The key difference is that where in Scotland, there are days of intermittent drizzle, here there are days of intermittent torrential downpour. Having had weeks of these downpours, the ground is also saturated, rivers are already full (and often then blocked with detritus that the rain has washed into the rivers) so that they are quickly overflowing. There is just nowhere for all the water to go. Admittedly, when it is not raining, the sun shines gloriously – unlike in Scotland. Like everyone else, we waited in the shopping mall to see if the rain would ease at all, but after half an hour there was no let up. Being the driver, I was the one to make the dash for the car. This was far from ideal given I was wearing suede high-heeled wedge sandals, once acquired many years ago on a business trip to Brazil. The water was so deep at the car that my feet were completely submerged in water – unpleasant, but not as unpleasant as you might think given the water was at bath temperature. The other key difference from Scottish drizzle being that everything is hot here – even the rain!

On the return journey, whole sections of the highway were flooded with sometimes only one lane only partially passable. We had chosen a car with difficult road conditions in mind, so this was all still quite manageable but Trini driving behaviour was no less erratic in these conditions and cars were breaking down right, left and centre as they were overwhelmed in the flooding and avoiding stationary cars was as much a challenge as fording the floodwaters. After dropping off the Handsome Dutchman at his office, the difficult part of the journey was still to come. The remaining route was mainly uphill through a valley and the road had become a substitute for the river. For most of the way home, I was simply driving uphill through a fast flowing river with the windscreen wipers set to maximum. On the upside, at least it was so hot that my suede sandals had dried out by the time I reached home and were remarkably unscathed from their earlier bathtime!

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